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Blu-rays of the Week
Writer-director Scott Cooper always wanted to make a western, and this intermittently powerful drama—which displays a knack for the wide spaces and unexpected violence that the Indian territories comprised—is a thoughtful study of the men and women caught up in the casual brutality that was their daily existence circa 1892.
It’s a little long, and some scenes fall flat, but this is assured work from Cooper, with sturdy performances by Christian Bale, Rosemund Pike and Wes Studi among a large and varied cast. And the final shots are haunting. The film looks spectacular on Blu; lone extra is a 60-minute making-of documentary.
Bill Nye—Science Guy
This engaging documentary portrait of the world’s most popular scientist since Carl Sagan (his mentor) shows Nye in his natural habitat: not the lab, but in front of crowds and cameras spreading the gospel of scientific inquiry and learning to millions of all ages.
It’s quite touching seeing those interested in science or in scientific careers after watching his TV show, and Nye himself is quite pleasant, but there are also his missteps, like when he debated a prominent creationist and the ensuing publicity gave millions in donations to a creationist museum, the very antithesis of Nye’s own advocacy. There’s an excellent hi-def transfer; extras include several deleted scenes.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The textbook definition of a guilty pleasure is this grade-Z horror comedy from 1988 about the title characters terrorizing a bunch of horribly awful actors and actresses; the Chiodo brothers can focus the camera in the right direction, at least, and their sense of humor is intact if infantile.
As always with cult items, your mileage may vary. The film looks presentable on Blu-ray; many extras include an archival Chiodo brothers’ commentary, making-of documentary, interviews with filmmakers and stars, and several of the Chiodos’ earlier films.
Director Paul King’s slight comic adventure has its share of charming moments, and a cast of top-flight British performers (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Hugh Grant, Peter Capaldi and Brendan Gleeson) ensures it stays in its lane, but the story—a term in jail for our favorite (and innocent) anthropomorphic bear—threatens to completely scuttle the film.
Still, Paddington 2 remains disarming throughout, which is the most you can expect from a sequel. The hi-def transfer looks great; extras include featurettes and a music video.
A Pistol for Ringo/The Return of Ringo
This pair of Spaghetti westerns, from 1965 and 1966, respectively, are both directed by Duccio Tessari, who follows a clean-cut gunslinging hero as he takes his revenge—yes, there’s enough vengeance to go around for two films—on bunches of faceless, thieving and murdering Mexicans.
It’s often borderline risible, but fans of the western genre will find something to enjoy here. Both films have fine hi-def transfers; extras comprise commentaries for both films, interviews and featurettes.
Unforgotten—Complete 1st Season
This latest in PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery series is an absorbing procedural about a pair of detectives working a re-opened case when the remains of a body appear decades after the victim disappeared.
Narrowing the suspects to a manageable few who have motive if not opportunity, the detectives methodically find their way to the truth. Forceful acting by Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar as the partners is reinforced by a superb supporting cast led by veteran Tom Courtenay as one of those under suspicion. The six episodes look terrific on Blu.
(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.)
DVD of the Week
Claws—Complete 1st Season
This tongue-in-cheek series about manicurists in Manatee County, Florida who want to start their own upscale salon, by hook or by crook—mostly the latter—is as subtle as its title, with streams of easy jokes, broad stereotypes and even broader acting.
But there’s something appealingly off-kilter that prevents it from ever getting too precious, even if ten one-hour episodes—and with more seasons to come—are too much of a not-so-great thing.
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